The Courage of the Angels
Before you say, “How can angels be courageous?” Stick with me. The messengers of God have a word for us about courage.
When I consider the messengers of God – the real-life angels among us – the people who speak God’s truth, embody God’s love and call forth grace in others, I can tell you about some of the most courageous people I know.
- She is the one who challenges the long-held assumptions with grit, grace, and gumption. She steps onto a platform once reserved for men and owns the space as a brave, clear, loving determined leader.
- He is the one who loves unconditionally, speaking his mind by telling his heart every chance he gets…and even when the stress of in-laws and out-laws are driving his blood pressure to new heights.
- They are the ones whose arms are open to the least of these – the children. The ones caught in an unending cycle of neglect, abuse, divorce, crime, addiction, lack of care, and much, much more.
They do not judge. Instead, they embrace.
They do not rant. Instead, they open their doors.
They do not demand that others should embrace their cause, but model compassion, grace, conviction, and adaptability like no other.
And none of the above people would consider themselves angels.
But, here’s why I call them God’s messengers.
The Courage to Say Yes
When I read the scriptures and reflect on the courage of the messengers, they create space for the people they encountered to make decisions, take a journey, and say yes. The angels create a space for clarity even when it’s fuzzy, at best, how something could happen. Additionally, they confront the reality of tough moments with a moment of truth, clearing the way forward. With that in mind, let’s look at a few specific examples.
The Courage to Name Fear
First, the angels create a space to name fear. This normalizes fear. Let that sink in for just a moment. What do most of us do? At best, we try to eliminate fear. At worst, we avoid fear.
But, look at what happens to Zechariah, Mary, and the shepherds.
When Zechariah sees the angel, he is startled and overcome with fear.The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah. Your prayers have been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will give birth to your son and you must name him John. (Luke 1:12-13)
When Zechariah experiences fear, the angels seem to say, “Oh, Zech, it’s ok. We’re here.” The presence of another normalizes his fear. Even when, especially when, there is nothing that is normal about what’s happening, your presence is what can make a difference.
“Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!” She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you. (Luke:1:28b-30)
I can almost hear the angels saying, “Hurry. We need to help. She isn’t sure if this is good news or a death sentence.” Once again, the angels enter and name the fear and help Mary see a new reality.
And then there are my pals, the shepherds, hanging out at night caring for the flock. They aren’t just afraid, their response translates ‘ready to run.’ We’ve all likely been there a time or two.
But, once again, the angels enter the scene and embolden the shepherds to take on the task of being messengers of the good news of the Savior’s birth.
The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified.
The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. (Luke 2:9–10)
The Courage to Ask Questions
Second, the angels create space to ask questions, empowering the recipients to be courageous.
Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure of this? My wife and I are very old.” (Luke 1:18)
Then Mary said to the angel, “How will this happen since I haven’t had sexual relations with a man?” (Luke 1:34)
Zechariah’s and Mary’s questions were not threats to the angels. Their questions created space for the angels, Mary, and Zechariah to step into their future without hesitation.
The Courage to Share
Now, this fourth example of courage is going to either challenge you or encourage you. The angels create space to share the good news with the most unlikely of people.
The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people.
The shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened. Let’s confirm what the Lord has revealed to us.” (Luke 2:10 and 2:15)
Maybe the question for you and me is this: Who might be an unlikely messenger of the good news in your midst?
The Courage to Be Clear
But I think the greatest act of courage the angels embody is the clarity of their message to the person on the receiving end. It is courageous to be clear. It’s also kind. “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.” So even though they might not like what they are hearing at first, the angels don’t mince words. They don’t get wishy-washy or try to placate their intentions.
Here are a few examples.
The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in God’s presence. I was sent to speak to you and to bring this good news to you. Know this: What I have spoken will come true at the proper time. But because you didn’t believe, you will remain silent, unable to speak until the day when these things happen.” (Luke 1:19-20)
That’s what I call an angel smackdown.
In all seriousness, clear is kind. The angel is clear. Zechariah’s lack of belief meant he is going to be silent for a period of time.
But, lest you think it’s only Zechariah. Here’s another example.
As he was thinking about this, an angel from the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child she carries was conceived by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you will call him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)
Joseph’s encounter with the angel is a bit different than the others. There’s no fear. There are no questions. He simply goes to sleep and wakes up with a commitment to follow through on marriage.
Do Angels Need Courage?
As I explored the examples of courage of the angels, when I arrived at the end I started to wonder, “Do angels really need courage or have courage?” Or, is their role to help others step into who God is inviting them to be? If it’s the latter, perhaps we need to remember that the medium is the message.
What was important was the message. The angels giving voice to the following words helped others be courageous:
- Don’t be afraid.
- God is with you.
- You are highly favored.
- This is good news.
The message of Christmas is a message of courage. Do not be afraid. God is with you. You are blessed. Here’s the good news: God’s love is for all people.
The message is what invites us into the season – to embody, to incarnate the love of God is the greatest gift of Christmas we could ever want. To embody the love of God is the message of the angels.
They have God’s commission and blessing. And that’s all the courage they need.
Here’s what I’m wondering this week, “Are you one of God’s messengers?” Will you:
- Share the good news of God’s love for all people
- Speak peace
- Remind others in your words and actions “Do not be afraid. God’s with you.”
If you are one of God’s messengers, and I hope you are, claim the courage God’s given you to follow Jesus every day.
PS – Still looking for courage? Explore the courage of Mary, Elizabeth, and the shepherds on the podcast and the courage of Joseph and Zechariah on previous blogs.
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